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The Third Man
By Joe Levit
November 28, 2003
 

NFL teams use three-wideout sets to take advantage of mismatches in the opposing team’s secondary. This strategy only works when the third receiver is a much better player than the number three defensive back. In fantasy football, you can grab extra points by having a strong third receiver, and you don’t have to worry about him getting off the line cleanly.

In fantasy leagues that start three receivers, the surefire way to make up a lot of fantasy ground each week is by having enough depth to field a winner in the third slot. Most owners attempt at their drafts to nail down two good wide receivers early, but then focus on backup running backs and quarterbacks, and sometimes the starting tight end, before returning to tab a player for that last WR post. That is a mistake. The third time is a charm in this regard, and whether owners draft the receiver, trade for him or pull him from the waiver wire, it is essential to use the position well. No one this season wants to have to count on Brian Finneran or James McKnight as a third receiver.

When looking for viable third fantasy wideouts, concentrate on their touchdown totals. These unheralded fantasy receivers are often surprising scorers, and it is this ability to traipse in for the score that sets them apart from strictly yardage players.

Below are the season’s best fantasy third wide receivers. In some leagues, these guys will be used as the second starter. Just remember, three is a crowd at the wide receiver position. If you can start a minor star in that third slot, you will stand out among your fantasy peers. See if you can land one of these guys in a trade, or be sure to play them as your third receiver if you already own their services.

Peter Warrick – The former first-rounder is finally using his talent productively. The Bengals are on a tear, and Warrick is waylaying the fantasy balance by being just productive enough to sink opposing owners. His six touchdowns and nearly 600 yards receiving make him a valuable third-slot fantasy receiver.

Justin McCareins – At 6-2 and 215 pounds, third year wideout McCareins is making himself a nice red zone target for Steve McNair. McCareins has six touchdown catches, and is benefiting from the extra looks he gets with Drew Bennett out.

Bobby Engram – The Penn State product has been building his fantasy game the last few weeks. He has been more productive than Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson lately. With six touchdowns on the season, Engram has already matched his career high.

Reggie Wayne – Wayne was the right player to man the receiver slot opposite all-world wideout Marvin Harrison. He has 700 yards to go along with five end zone celebrations. He scores in bunches, but has the yardage to be an every-week starter.

Terry Glenn – Glenn had one monster game this year, and has been quiet in a number of other contests. If he fails to hook up again soon with Quincy Carter, he will cease to be a stud third fantasy receiver.

Steve Smith – 768 yards and five scores. Smith has been making big plays for the Panthers this season, and for any fantasy owner who has inserted him into their fantasy lineup.

Javon Walker – Walker seems to be the new main target for Favre, surpassing Donald Driver, who hasn’t done anything for fantasy owners this season. Javon now has five touchdowns, and goes against the woeful secondary fielded by the Detroit Lions this Thanksgiving Day.

Tai Streets – His five touchdowns make him a nice third receiver. If the 49ers can get Garcia healthy and be able to settle on one quarterback, then Streets has a chance to up his production.

Jerry Porter – Porter has the potential to produce like a number one or two fantasy wide receiver. Right now he makes a sneaky third wideout, and he is beginning to play well with Rick Mirer.

Joe Levit, based in Boston, writes for www.cnnsi.com and www.thehuddle.com. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a devoted Detroit Lions fan. He can be contacted at lavishjetpoet@aol.com.